Anne Applebaum, one of a small but distinguished team of conservative columnists at the otherwise heavily left-leaning Washington Post, is also one of the most well-informed writers anywhere on Russia and East Europe.
Today she writes (in part):
Openly or subconsciously, since 1991, Western leaders have acted on the assumption that Russia is a flawed Western country. …
In the 1990s, many people thought Russian progress … simply required new policies: With the right economic reforms, Russians would sooner or later become like us. Others thought that if Russia joined the Council of Europe, and if we turned the G-7 into the G-8, then sooner or later Russia would absorb Western values. …
Still others thought that Russia’s forward progress required a certain kind of Western language, a better dialogue. When the relationship deteriorated, President Bush blamed President Clinton. President Obama blamed President Bush. … Back in 1999, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story titled Who Lost Russia? Much discussed at the time, it argued that we’d lost Russia “because we pursued agendas that were hopelessly wrong for Russia” and given bad economic advice. In The Post last week, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jack Matlock, echoed President Putin and argued that the United States, by “treating Russia as the loser,” is responsible for the current crisis. …
[But] Russian politics have never been all about us. In truth, we’ve had very little influence on Russian internal politics since 1991, even when we’ve understood them. The most important changes — the massive transfer of oil and gas from the state to the oligarchs, the return to power of men formed by the KGB, the elimination of a free press and political opposition — took place against our advice. The most important military decisions — the invasions of Chechnya and Georgia — met with our protests. Though many appear to believe otherwise, the invasion of Crimea was not primarily intended to provoke the West, either.
Putin invaded Crimea because Putin needs a war. In a time of slower growth, and with a more restive middle class, he may need some more wars, too. …
But … the Crimean invasion might have a bigger effect on the West than even he intended. In many European capitals, the Crimean events have been a real jolt. For the first time, many are beginning to understand that … Russia is not a flawed Western power. Russia is an anti-Western power with a different, darker vision of global politics. …
For twenty years, nobody has thought about how to “contain” Russia. Now they will. … Strategic changes … should flow from our new understanding of Russia. We need to re-imagine NATO, to move its forces from Germany to the alliance’s eastern borders. We need to reexamine the presence of Russian money in international financial markets, given that so much “private” Russian money is in fact controlled by the state. We need to look again at our tax shelters and money-laundering laws, given that Russia uses corruption as a tool of foreign policy. Above all we need to examine the West’s energy strategy, given that Russia’s oil and gas assets are also used to manipulate European politics and politicians, and find ways to reduce [Europe's energy] dependence [on Russia].
Obama is doing everything he can to make sure the Russian nuclear arsenal will be bigger and more technologically efficient than ours. He, and the Left in general, will not call Russia an enemy – but that’s what Russia is: the enemy of the West. Could it possibly be the case that Obama and the Left in general are on Russia’s side? Does the Left see an ally in any country or ideology that is against America?
Is Estonia next on Putin’s list for invasion and annexation? It is a member of NATO. Will Putin risk war with NATO? Or does he calculate that the US under Obama will not permit NATO to obey it’s own charter ( in particular Article 5) and defend any member state that is attacked?
The BBC reports:
Russia signaled concern on Wednesday at Estonia’s treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority, comparing language policy in the Baltic state with what it said was a call in Ukraine to prevent the use of Russian. Russia has defended its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula by arguing it has the right to protect Russian speakers outside its borders … “
(We took the quotation from this article – Why Obama Scares Me – by Mona Charen at Townhall.)
Again we quote Daniel Greenfield. Here’s his account with his apt comments:
Obama Dispatches Biden to Poland to “Send Message” to Putin
I’m not sure what the message is. I hope he didn’t give it to Biden or it’s lost forever.
But I’m sure Putin is intimidated now that we sent our village idiot to Poland to reassure them that we won’t abandon them like we did in Ukraine. (No, we will.) …
Biden plans to deliver “the message of strong reassurance and support for the security of our NATO allies,” a senior administration official told reporters Monday.
And nothing says strong reassurance like sending the most expendable member of our government to deliver a speech.
With limited options, the United States was seeking ways to show it won’t stand idly by as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty for the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea to join Russia. So far, Putin has been undeterred by sanctions and visa bans levied by the U.S. and the European Union, and there’s no U.S. appetite for military intervention.
So the only answer is… more sanctions. They’ve never worked, but this time is bound to be different.
Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that the U.S. and Europe will impose further sanctions as Moscow moved to annex part of Ukraine.
Then Joe Biden turned to his weakest point. Logic.
“Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land grab, including what he said today,” Biden said in Poland, which shares a border with both Russia and Ukraine. “But the world has seen through Russia’s actions and has rejected the flawed logic behind those actions.”
Now that the flawed logic is rejected, the problem is solved. All Putin has to do is realize that his logic is flawed and all the soldiers will leave.
In a clear warning to Moscow not to test other nations along its border, Biden said the U.S. commitment to defending its NATO allies is “ironclad.”
Absolutely. Unless something changes.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden promised Poland and the Baltic states on Tuesday that the United States would protect them from any Russian aggression similar to what has taken place in Crimea.
You know how we didn’t protect Ukraine or even agree to give it any weapons? We totally won’t treat you that way.
Mr. Obama has also stepped up his engagement, speaking recently to [Polish] Prime Minister Tusk. He interrupted a recent golf weekend in Florida to hold a conference call with the three Baltic leaders.
Interrupted a golfing weekend? Now that’s commitment.
A Palestinian Muslim spells out what is wrong with “the Kerry plan” for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It could not be clearer, but we don’t expect Secretary of State John Kerry to understand it. Even if he could and did, we doubt that he’d change or abandon his silly and evil plan, because – plain to see – the intention of Obama and his coven is to destroy the State of Israel.
This is from Gatestone, by Daoud Assaf:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently warned that “the status quo between Israel and the Palestinians” cannot continue, noting that while there is prosperity and momentary security in Israel, it is “an illusion” that is bound to change if [peace] talks flounder. “The risks are very high for Israel,” Kerry said. “People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure. We all have a strong interest in this conflict resolution.”
In short, Kerry is threatening Israel with a boycott and even security unrest if it does not accept the peace plan he says he will deliver in two weeks. Is Kerry actually endorsing the anti-Israeli boycott that delegitimizes America’s only stable and democratic ally in the region? Also, what is the peace plan Kerry is so determined to force on the Israelis and Palestinians?
Kerry’s talk of boycotting Israel comes at a time when the anti-Israeli boycott rhetoric is becoming shrill; one day after Kerry’s talk, two major European banks decided on actions against their Israeli counterparts. Sweden’s Nordea Bank, the largest in Scandinavia, asked for “clarifications” from Israel’s Bank Leumi and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank regarding their activities in the West Bank. Also Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, said on its website that it was boycotting Israel’s Bank Hapoalim for “legal and ethical” reasons, again in reference to its operations in the West Bank.
Recently, the $200 billion Dutch pension fund PGGM also decided to divest from the five largest Israeli banks, ostensibly because of their involvement in the West Bank.
Kerry’s comments were not only a stab in the back that any country would not expect from its closest ally; they also provided support to the enemies of Israel – such as the smiling, racist members of the European Union.
For decades, the EU and many European nations have been secretly funneling hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ euros to organizations that work towards overthrowing Israel. The EU also, despite mountains of evidence, could not even bring itself to declare Iran’s proxy organization, Hizballah, a terrorist group; and if Iran is legitimized, so probably will be Iran’s other proxy terrorist group, Hamas.
Joining this club of racists is the United Nations, whose record of one-sided anti-Israel hostility is so pronounced that even one of its own translators commented on it. This record not only includes the frequent resolutions condemning Israel, as opposed to any other nations that commit far worse human rights violations than those Israel is [falsely] accused of committing, but also the openly racist Durban Conferences, ostensibly organized to counter racism, but which, as anyone can see, in fact promote it.
The cumulative effect of this pile-on against Israel only provides approval for the enemies of Israel to intensify their attacks — including anti-Israeli boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] campaigns — even more.
Kerry, and many others in the West, understand perfectly well that boycotting Israel reduces job opportunities not only for Jews, but also for Palestinians who work for in Israeli factories, farms and settlements, inside Israel as well as in the West Bank. The Palestinians who work there often receive ten times the remuneration, as well as better working conditions, than they would find among their own people, as has been revealed recently by the workers at companies that have actually been building real bridges of peace such as SodaStream, rather than organizations that have been sanctimoniously blowing up the bridges for peace, as Oxfam has. As usual, the Europeans know what will happen if there are fewer ways for the Palestinians to earn a decent living, as they knew when they left all their colonies. … The Europeans evidently care more about flagellating Israel than helping Palestinians. …
The question then arises: Why do those in the West who claim such hand-wringing concern for the Palestinians seek to harm Israeli businesses that offer them jobs? Do they forget that the Arabs refused to accept a partition plan in 1948, and started all subsequent wars to prevent Israel’s existence? Do they think that if Israel just withdraws to the 1967 line that the Palestinians will disregard their Charters, which view Israel as one big settlement and which assume a Palestine “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea”?
In our view, it is past time that Israel set its borders – and they should be from the river to the sea.
In other words, is the Arab-Israeli Conflict — which it is, far more than a Palestinian-Israeli Conflict — actually about territory, or about the existence of Jews who have come home to the land given to them by the Holy Qur’an, Sura 7 [Al-A'raf; "The Heights"] 137: ” And We made those who had been persecuted inherit the eastern and western lands which We had blessed. Thus your Lord’s gracious promise was fulfilled to the children of Israel, for they had endured with patience; and We destroyed all that Pharaoh and his people had wrought, and all that they had built.”
An interesting quotation that, of a sura that most Muslims seem to ignore.
Of course, even though we Muslims might prefer it if the Israelis were someplace else, as a Muslim, I must ask why are Israelis always found guilty for defending themselves? Could it be that the old, politically-incorrect anti-Semitism has now simply been replaced by a new, supposedly politically-correct anti-Israelism?
Also, what is this peace plan Kerry is so determined to force on Israel?
Kerry’s plan, recently outlined in the media, includes: the division of Jerusalem; Israel’s withdrawal from most of the West Bank, while it would retain control over the largest Jewish settlements there; a land swap to compensate the Palestinians for the settlement bloc [one can only imagine the years of wrangling about what a "commensurate piece of land" would consist of in each instance, thereby perpetuating the conflict a few more millennia]; recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as a “Jewish state”, and compensation for Palestinian refugees who would no longer have a “right of return” to Israel.
But it does not include compensation for the Jews who were expelled from Arab lands or forced to flee, and had all their property confiscated.
In addition, the London-based newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, reported on January 8, 2014 that Kerry’s plan actually revolved around solving the Palestinian refugees’ problem through “settling them in Jordan under Jordan’s king and granting the king $55 billion for hosting the Palestinians for five decades.”
And where would they go after that, Mr Kerry?
Actually, that is where they belong. Jordan was created to be Arab Palestine by the British. They took some 80% of the Palestine region over which they were granted a mandate by the League of Nations after World War I, and handed it to Emir Abdullah, the Hashemite Sharif of Mecca, to be – as “the Emirate of Transjordan” – an Arab-only area in which no Jews would be allowed to live, although the explicit provision of the Balfour Declaration was that Jews should be “settled closely” on the the land. And it was for that purpose the League of Nations had given Britain the mandate.
A careful look at the [Kerry] plan, however, raises the following issues:
Palestinian Authority President Abbas has already said he would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. But the real problem is that even if he did, he or his successor could easily change his mind and retract the recognition of Israel after it had already given back the West Bank … as in the time-honored tradition of Hudaibiyya which his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, repeatedly invoked in Arabic to justify signing the Oslo Accords.
“Hudaibiyya,” a footnote explains, “is the story of Mohammed’s promise to the tribe of the Qurayesh in Mecca not to attack for ten years; but after assembling a powerful army, Mohammed returned after three years, conquered the tribe, occupied the city and gave tribes’ members the choice of either becoming Muslims, or leaving their homes and going elsewhere.”
So much for treaties, as can presently also be seen in the ongoing Palestinian abrogations of UN Resolutions 242 and 838, as well as of bilateral agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel — again endorsed by Secretary Kerry.
Palestinians also say Abbas does not represent them because he has overstayed his four-year term by six years, and therefore has no legitimacy, or mandate, to sign anything. Abbas would undoubtedly also be regarded by many Palestinian hard-liners as a traitor — as was Egypt’s President, Anwar al Sadat — and almost certainly be assassinated. …
Kerry also wants Israelis, including those who live in settlements, to be surrounded by a Palestinian state. If I were a Jew, I would frankly not want to be living in a tiny country or a settlement surrounded by people who are incited day-in and day-out [by being told that] that their mission in life is to kill you, let alone that the entire country is regarded by many Arabs as one big settlement … It is bad enough when a country — now home to over a million Arabs, who have all the same opportunities as the Jews — is slandered in a lie that it is [an] apartheid [state], but for a new Palestinian state to be legally born [an] apartheid [state], officially free of Jews, after having had to listen to the international community unjustly hurl that word around all those years — seems both legally and morally indefensible.
Last of all, it is important not to forget that historically, whenever Israel gives land for “peace,” as in Egypt, southern Lebanon and Gaza, instead of rewards it gets concussions. …
Despite everything, the Israeli government has recently exhibited a willingness to accept Kerry’s plan.
As a tactic only, we hope.
The Palestinians have, as usual, rejected the plan: senior Palestinian Authority official Yasser Abed Rabbo called Kerry’s plan “Israeli ideas.” In addition, last month, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told an audience at a conference in Munich he could never agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
To this author, Kerry’s peace plan seems to be based on assumptions that are likely not to materialize or … The Palestinians have been offered a state many times since 1947; each time they have rejected the offer. It seems, looked at dispassionately, that they are less interested in having a Palestinian state than in destroying a Jewish state.
At the same time, Kerry’s boycott threats only embolden Israel’s many adversaries, including the Europeans, who seem to enjoy colluding with the Arabs, probably for the money, to launch new BDS campaigns, as they high-handedly compromise the interests and legitimacy of Israel, the only ally on which America can actually depend in the unstable Middle East.
The Cold War is not over. Russia is winning it the only way it could, by America choosing to lose it.
From this Investor’s Business Daily editorial we get a clear understanding of how drastically and easily Obama and his clique are sabotaging the United States.
As Russia test-fires new, updated ICBMs on the heels of its Ukraine invasion, Obama’s top arms negotiator is busy downsizing and mothballing America’s nuclear arsenal and destroying our deterrent.
Thanks to Undersecretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, a left-wing peacenik and old Soviet apologist, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is inching dangerously closer to first-strike capability.
Gottemoeller, a longtime anti-nuke activist, is the architect of the disastrously one-sided 2010 U.S.-Russia New Start deal that slashes America’s nuclear arsenal from 5,000 deployable warheads to just 1,550.
One-sided is right. Ms Gottemoeller is only anti-nuke when the nukes are in the arsenal of the US. She loves them when they are in the hands of KGB officer Putin.
In a major concession to Moscow, the deal also limits our development of missile defense interceptors.
The administration won’t even certify to Congress that Russia is complying with its end of the deal (the requirement was removed from the last budget deal). That’s because it’s not. And while we’re gutting our nukes, Russia is upgrading its arsenal.
Moscow’s nuclear modernization program includes new warheads and delivery systems, both missiles and bombers. Yet, “We are not developing new nuclear weapons or pursuing new nuclear missions,” Gottemoeller recently clucked.
Worse, the administration has agreed not to even test our aging nukes for reliability. Gottemoeller is pushing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a top priority.
Despite her overtures — or perhaps because of them —
Perhaps? Precisely because of them!
Moscow has toughened its posture toward the U.S. and is no longer interested in arms control talks.
No matter, Gottemoeller is fine with disarming America unilaterally, if necessary.
She proposes cutting our strategic warheads to as low as 300. Next, she wants to cut tactical or battlefield nukes, both deployed and non-deployed, even though Russia has a massive 10-to-1 advantage in such weapons. She even wants to ban fuel production.
How can she do that without a treaty? Easy. Obama can make an executive agreement, bypassing the difficult Senate ratification process.
Like her boss, Gottemoeller thinks America is a global “bully” and that its nuclear superiority has created a global arms race. She argues the U.S. must show humility by signing nuclear disarmament treaties and become strategically equal with Russia.
Not even equal. Inferior.
… Most Cold War babies grew up hating the Soviet Union. Not “Rosie” Gottemoeller.
She admired the former communist superpower. Her father told her the Soviets were better at science, so she studied Russian and immersed herself in Soviet propaganda. She’s visited Moscow so many times she now considers it her “second home”.
Second home? If home is where the heart is, Moscow is her first and only home.
Where are you, Joe McCarthy, when we need you?
With her sitting across the negotiating table -
No wonder Moscow is thumbing its nose at arms reduction.
No wonder a Russian general recently threatened to take preemptive military action against U.S. and allied missile defenses in Europe.
No wonder Russian strategic nuclear bombers are flying so close to Alaska and California.
No wonder Putin has no problem marching into Ukraine. He knows nothing will happen.
Even the IBD does not see what is staring it in the face, the fact that its own story makes blindingly obvious. It concludes:
His Soviet-style power play shows just how dangerously naive Obama and his nutty no-nuke advisers are. Gottemoeller’s ambitious plans for further denuclearizing the U.S. will only invite worse military aggression.
He and they are not naive. No one except a baby or a lunatic could be that naive. They are deliberately giving America to the Russians – to Putin, who wants to restore the Soviet Union and its empire. Why can’t the opposition forces see what’s happening and take every step necessary to stop it? Is it because they are naive – or lunatic? Or is it because they cannot bring themselves to believe the evidence so plainly set before their own eyes?
The State Department has spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars acquiring Art. That is to say, paying for objects that its resident or consultant aesthetes swear are works of Art, worth every penny.
The acquisitions were apparently a priority for Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. If you would see her monument, tour US embassies and look about you.
Fashionable Art doesn’t come cheap. So there was no money left to pay for such a humdrum thing as effective protection of the US diplomatic and CIA missions in Benghazi. Denied the security they needed, four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed there by savage jihadis. Well – Hillary might say – there has to be human sacrifice on the altar of Art, it makes all the difference, and if you don’t understand that, you are a philistine bourgeois.
Look on the bright side. The Art is displayed in many a US embassy. Americans can be proud.
In London, there’s a granite wall built by Sean Scully that cost $1million. We couldn’t find a picture of it, but it’s like this one displayed in an art gallery.
Daniel Greenfield illustrates an article on the subject – which inspired this post – with these pictures of works by Cy Twombly. The top one is at the embassy in Rome.
From his text:
Beijing [embassy] contains $23 million worth of art. Bern has $1.2 million and Luxembourg has $2.2 million.
And here is the grave of Ambassador Stevens, murdered at Benghazi. We don’t know how much it cost, or who paid for it.
Post Script: Here is some wall art that really has meaning. The wall is part of the US mission in Benghazi. The paint is blood. A hand put it there the night of the attack. It might have been the hand of Ambassador Stevens himself – or of one of his brutal killers. One does not have to read Arabic to know who signed in for the event on the other wall.
(Hat-tip: our reader and commenter donl)
These are extracts from a Washington Times report of an interview it had in Moscow with Edward Snowden, the man who “betrayed” the secrets of the National Security Agency (NSA):
Snowden is an orderly thinker, with an engineer’s approach to problem-solving. He had come to believe that a dangerous machine of mass surveillance was growing unchecked. Closed-door oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a “graveyard of judgment” he said, manipulated by the agency it was supposed to keep in check. Classification rules erected walls to prevent public debate.
Toppling those walls would be a spectacular act of transgression against the norms that prevailed inside them. Someone would have to bypass security, extract the secrets, make undetected contact with journalists and provide them with enough proof to tell the stories.
The NSA’s business is “information dominance”, the use of other people’s secrets to shape events. … Snowden upended the agency on its own turf. …[and] succeeded beyond plausible ambition. The NSA, accustomed to watching without being watched, faces scrutiny it has not endured since the 1970s, or perhaps ever.
The cascading effects have made themselves felt in Congress, the courts, popular culture, Silicon Valley and world capitals.
The basic structure of the Internet itself is now in question, as Brazil and members of the European Union consider measures to keep their data away from U.S. territory and U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo take extraordinary steps to block the collection of data by their government.
For months, Obama administration officials attacked Snowden’s motives and said the work of the NSA was distorted by selective leaks and misinterpretations.
On Dec. 16, in a lawsuit that could not have gone forward without the disclosures made possible by Snowden, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon described the NSA’s capabilities as “almost Orwellian” and said its bulk collection of U.S. domestic telephone records was probably unconstitutional.
The next day, in the Roosevelt Room [at the White house], an unusual delegation of executives from old telephone companies and young Internet firms told President Obama that the NSA’s intrusion into their networks was a threat to the U.S. information economy. The following day, an advisory panel appointed by Obama recommended substantial new restrictions on the NSA, including an end to the domestic call-records program. …
In the intelligence and national security establishments, Snowden is widely viewed as a reckless saboteur, and journalists abetting him little less so. …
It is commonly said of Snowden that he broke an oath of secrecy, a turn of phrase that captures a sense of betrayal. NSA Director Keith B. Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., among many others, have used that formula. …
Snowden noted matter-of-factly that Standard Form 312, the classified-information nondisclosure agreement, is a civil contract. He signed it, but he pledged his fealty elsewhere.
“The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,” he said. “That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.” …
Beginning in October 2012, he said, he brought his misgivings to two superiors in the NSA’s Technology Directorate and two more in the NSA Threat Operations Center’s regional base in Hawaii. For each of them, and 15 other co-workers, Snowden said he opened a data query tool called BOUNDLESSINFORMANT, which used color-coded “heat maps” to depict the volume of data ingested by NSA taps.
His colleagues were often “astonished to learn we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia,” he said. Many of them were troubled, he said, and several said they did not want to know any more.
“I asked these people, ‘What do you think the public would do if this was on the front page?’ ” he said. He noted that critics have accused him of bypassing internal channels of dissent. “How is that not reporting it? How is that not raising it?” …
By last December, Snowden was contacting reporters, although he had not yet passed along any classified information. He continued to give his colleagues the “front-page test”, he said, until April. …
Just before releasing the documents this spring, Snowden made a final review of the risks. He had overcome what he described at the time as a “selfish fear” of the consequences for himself.
“I said to you the only fear [left] is apathy — that people won’t care, that they won’t want change.” …
The documents leaked by Snowden compelled attention because they revealed to Americans a history they did not know they had. …
With assistance from private communications firms, the NSA had learned to capture enormous flows of data at the speed of light from fiber-optic cables that carried Internet and telephone traffic over continents and under seas. According to one document in Snowden’s cache, the agency’s Special Source Operations group, which as early as 2006 was said to be ingesting “one Library of Congress every 14.4 seconds”, had an official seal that might have been parody: an eagle with all the world’s cables in its grasp.
Each year, NSA systems collected hundreds of millions of e-mail address books, hundreds of billions of cellphone location records and trillions of domestic call logs.
Most of that data, by definition and intent, belonged to ordinary people suspected of nothing. But vast new storage capacity and processing tools enabled the NSA to use the information to map human relationships on a planetary scale. Only this way, its leadership believed, could the NSA reach beyond its universe of known intelligence targets.
In the view of the NSA, signals intelligence, or electronic eavesdropping, was a matter of life and death, “without which America would cease to exist as we know it”, according to an internal presentation in the first week of October 2001, as the agency ramped up its response to the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
With stakes such as those, there was no capability the NSA believed it should leave on the table. The agency followed orders from President George W. Bush to begin domestic collection without authority from Congress and the courts. When the NSA won those authorities later, some of them under secret interpretations of laws passed by Congress between 2007 and 2012, the Obama administration went further still. …
In the Moscow interview, Snowden said, “What the government wants is something they never had before,” adding: “They want total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?”
Snowden likened the NSA’s powers to those used by British authorities in Colonial America, when “general warrants” allowed for anyone to be searched. The FISA court, Snowden said, “is authorizing general warrants for the entire country’s metadata.”
“The last time that happened, we fought a war over it,” he said.
Technology, of course, has enabled a great deal of consumer surveillance by private companies, as well. The difference with the NSA’s possession of the data, Snowden said, is that government has the power to take away life or freedom.
At the NSA, he said, “there are people in the office who joke about, ‘We put warheads on foreheads.’ Twitter doesn’t put warheads on foreheads.”
Privacy, as Snowden sees it, is a universal right, applicable to American and foreign surveillance alike.
“I don’t care whether you’re the pope or Osama bin Laden,” he said. “As long as there’s an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. …
When it comes to spying on allies, by Snowden’s lights, the news is not always about the target.
“It’s the deception of the government that’s revealed,” Snowden said, noting that the Obama administration offered false public assurances after the initial reports about NSA surveillance in Germany. “The U.S. government said: ‘We follow German laws in Germany. We never target German citizens.’ And then the story comes out and it’s: ‘What are you talking about? You’re spying on the chancellor.’ You just lied to the entire country, in front of Congress.” …
In hope of keeping focus on the NSA, Snowden has ignored attacks on himself.
“Let them say what they want,” he said. “It’s not about me.”
Former NSA and CIA director Michael V. Hayden predicted that Snowden will waste away in Moscow as an alcoholic, like other “defectors.” To this, Snowden shrugged. He does not drink at all. Never has.
But Snowden knows his presence here is easy ammunition for critics. He did not choose refuge in Moscow as a final destination. He said that once the U.S. government voided his passport as he tried to change planes en route to Latin America, he had no other choice. … “I have no relationship with the Russian government. I have not entered into any agreements with them.”
“If I defected at all,” Snowden said, “I defected from the government to the public.”
We don’t think it likely that the NSA will stop its surveillance of the whole earth and your and our emails. It’s a power beyond the wildest dreams of all governments ever to be able to know everything about everyone, and now that it has become possible, and is being used, it will never be given up. No court judgment will stop it. No act of Congress. Preventing terrorist attacks is the excuse. Power is the reason.
At least we know about it now. For that we have to thank Edward Snowden.
Proof that Saudi Arabia sponsored 9/11 is still being covered-up.
Paul Sperry (of the Hoover Institution) reports and comments in the New York Post:
After the 9/11 attacks, the public was told al Qaeda acted alone, with no state sponsors.
But the White House never let it see an entire section of Congress’s investigative report on 9/11 dealing with “specific sources of foreign support” for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.
It was kept secret and remains so today.
President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood. …
A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are “absolutely shocked” at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks.
Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) can’t reveal the nation identified by it without violating federal law. So they’ve proposed Congress pass a resolution asking President Obama to declassify the entire 2002 report, “Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001″.
Some information already has leaked from the classified section, which is based on both CIA and FBI documents, and it points back to Saudi Arabia, a presumed ally.
The Saudis deny any role in 9/11, butthe CIA in one memo reportedly found “incontrovertible evidence” that Saudi government officials — not just wealthy Saudi hardliners, but high-level diplomats and intelligence officers employed by the kingdom — helped the hijackers both financially and logistically. The intelligence files cited in the report directly implicate the Saudi embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles in the attacks, making 9/11 not just an act of terrorism, but an act of war.
The findings, if confirmed, would back up open-source reporting showing the hijackers had, at a minimum, ties to several Saudi officials and agents while they were preparing for their attacks inside the United States. In fact, they got help from Saudi VIPs from coast to coast:
LOS ANGELES: Saudi consulate official Fahad al-Thumairy allegedly arranged for an advance team to receive two of the Saudi hijackers — Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — as they arrived at LAX in 2000. One of the advance men, Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi intelligence agent, left the LA consulate and met the hijackers at a local restaurant. (Bayoumi left the United States two months before the attacks, while Thumairy was deported back to Saudi Arabia after 9/11.)
SAN DIEGO: Bayoumi and another suspected Saudi agent, Osama Bassnan, set up essentially a forward operating base in San Diego for the hijackers after leaving LA. They were provided rooms, rent and phones, as well as private meetings with an American al Qaeda cleric who would later become notorious, Anwar al-Awlaki, at a Saudi-funded mosque he ran in a nearby suburb. They were also feted at a welcoming party. (Bassnan also fled the United States just before the attacks.)
WASHINGTON: Then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar and his wife sent checks totaling some $130,000 to Bassnan while he was handling the hijackers. Though the Bandars claim the checks were “welfare” for Bassnan’s supposedly ill wife, the money nonetheless made its way into the hijackers’ hands.
Other al Qaeda funding was traced back to Bandar and his embassy — so much so that by 2004 Riggs Bank of Washington had dropped the Saudis as a client.
The next year, as a number of embassy employees popped up in terror probes, Riyadh recalled Bandar.
“Our investigations contributed to the ambassador’s departure,” an investigator who worked with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington told me, though Bandar says he left for “personal reasons”.
FALLS CHURCH, VA.: In 2001, Awlaki and the San Diego hijackers turned up together again — this time at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a Pentagon-area mosque built with funds from the Saudi Embassy. Awlaki was recruited 3,000 miles away to head the mosque. As its imam, Awlaki helped the hijackers, who showed up at his doorstep as if on cue. He tasked a handler to help them acquire apartments and IDs before they attacked the Pentagon.
Awlaki worked closely with the Saudi Embassy. He lectured at a Saudi Islamic think tank in Merrifield, Va., chaired by Bandar. Saudi travel itinerary documents I’ve obtained show he also served as the official imam on Saudi Embassy-sponsored trips to Mecca and tours of Saudi holy sites.
Most suspiciously, though, Awlaki fled the United States on a Saudi jet about a year after 9/11. …
The Saudi-sponsored cleric was briefly detained at JFK before being released into the custody of a “Saudi representative”. A federal warrant for Awlaki’s arrest had mysteriously been withdrawn the previous day. …
HERNDON, VA.: On the eve of the attacks, top Saudi government official Saleh Hussayen checked into the same Marriott Residence Inn near Dulles Airport as three of the Saudi hijackers who targeted the Pentagon. Hussayen had left a nearby hotel to move into the hijackers’ hotel. Did he meet with them? The FBI never found out. They let him go after he “feigned a seizure”, one agent recalled. (Hussayen’s name doesn’t appear in the separate 9/11 Commission Report, which clears the Saudis.)
SARASOTA, FLA.: 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and other hijackers visited a home owned by Esam Ghazzawi, a Saudi adviser to the nephew of King Fahd. FBI agents investigating the connection in 2002 found that visitor logs for the gated community and photos of license tags matched vehicles driven by the hijackers. Just two weeks before the 9/11 attacks, the Saudi luxury home was abandoned. Three cars, including a new Chrysler PT Cruiser, were left in the driveway. Inside, opulent furniture was untouched.
Democrat Bob Graham, the former Florida senator who chaired the Joint Inquiry, has asked the FBI for the Sarasota case files, but can’t get a single, even heavily redacted, page released. He says it’s a “coverup”.
Is the federal government protecting the Saudis? Case agents tell me they were repeatedly called off pursuing 9/11 leads back to the Saudi Embassy, which had curious sway over White House and FBI responses to the attacks.
Just days after Bush met with the Saudi ambassador in the White House, the FBI evacuated from the United States dozens of Saudi officials, as well as Osama bin Laden family members. Bandar made the request for escorts directly to FBI headquarters on Sept. 13, 2001 — just hours after he met with the president. The two old family friends shared cigars on the Truman Balcony while discussing the attacks. …
Astonishing as [it] sounds, few lawmakers in fact have bothered to read the classified section of arguably the most important investigation in US history. …
But it’s critical they take the time to read it and pressure the White House to let all Americans read it. …
As the frustrated Joint Inquiry authors warned, in an overlooked addendum to their heavily redacted 2002 report, “State-sponsored terrorism substantially increases the likelihood of successful and more lethal attacks within the United States”.
Their findings must be released, even if they forever change US-Saudi relations. …
Members of Congress reluctant to read the full report ought to remember that the 9/11 assault missed its fourth target: them.
(Hat-tip Roger in Florida)
For the first time in the 1,000-day civil war, the Americans find themselves in greater sympathy with Russia, Iran, Assad and Hizballah than the rebel cause.
According to DebkaFile, Bashar Assad is winning the civil war (or uprising against his dictatorship). So the Obama administration has stopped supporting the rebels to the extent, and in whatever way they ever did, and is now romancing Bashar Assad. The new policy follows naturally from the exciting new love-in Obama is having with the Shia tyrants of Iran.
The conquest Sunday, Dec. 8, of Nabuk in the Qalamoun Mountains on the Syrian-Lebanese border is a signal strategic breakthrough for Bashar Assad’s army, climaxing a row of battleground successes that have cast the rebel forces into deep disarray. Nabuk fell after a two-week siege by the combined forces of Syria, Hizballah, Iraqi Shiite units and the Iranian Al Qods Brigades. The Qalamoun range which separates central Syria from central Lebanon is at their mercy.
Assad and his allies, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, can chalk up four major war gains:
1. The highway from Damascus to Syria’s two port towns, Latakia and Tartus on the Mediterranean coast, is now open through the wayside town of Homs.
2. The last remaining rebel supply routes from Lebanon are cut off. Syrian rebels can no longer use Lebanon as a supply base for reinforcements and new recruits or as a destination for their casualties to receive treatment.
3. The Damascus-Beirut highway is now under Hizballah control, providing its Beirut headquarters vitally direct access to the forces posted to Damascus, and easing liaison and communications among Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah military units in the field.
4. Pushing the rebels out of their Qalamoun strongholds was the last step before loosening their two-year grip on the eastern suburbs of Damascus. Under relentless Syrian army siege, many rebel commanders holding on to those suburbs are crossing the lines and handing sectors over to Syrian army officers.
The Assad regime has reached a stage in the civil war at which the rebels no longer pose a military threat to his hold on power and have lost the capacity for more more than terrorist attacks or sporadic mortar shelling.
The Syrian rebel movement has lost its coherence as a fighting force. In desperation, they are releasing a stream of false claims of successes and unfounded accusations that Assad has reverted to chemical warfare. …
Since the only anti-Assad forces still in fighting shape are the two Al Qaeda affiliates, Jabhat al Nusra and the Iraqi branch, Washington is turning its back on the Syrian rebel movement as a whole and instead [is] ready to talk indirectly to Syrian army elements loyal to Assad as well as Hizballah. …
Indeed, in consideration of Hizballah’s military kudos and rising political clout in Beirut, the Obama administration has opened up a back channel to its leaders, mostly through British diplomats.
It turns out that the same coalition which contrived the nuclear deal in Geneva on Nov. 24 – the US, Russia and Iran – is going into action again on the Syrian issue with a favored spot for Iran’s Lebanese Shiite pawn [Hizballah].
We think this DebkaFile report is likely to be true in its main thrust: that US policy has changed, and America is now in alliance with Russia and Iran and in negotiation with one of the world’s most savage terrorist organizations.
And if it is true, it is an enormity – an extreme wrong.
It is not that the rebels are any better than Assad. Both sides are evil. Both sides seem to be peopled by vicious murdering torturing cannibals. Neither should be supported. But Assad is Iran’s client. Hizballah is Iran’s creation. What matters here is the colossal boost to Iranian power. The US has conceded the territory to the mullahs.
Under a pretense by their traitorous leaders that it is better to negotiate than risk a war with belligerent enemies, the American people are being led into capitulation.
Iran will be nuclear armed. Hizballah can claim legitimacy, and the cost to Lebanon and Israel is dreadful to think of. Russia’s power and prestige is being enhanced with each disastrous move Obama makes in the region of the Middle East.
And the US is no longer the protector of the free world. The erstwhile free world no longer has a protector.
In addition to allowing Iran to become a nuclear power, Obama is making the mullahs secret promises of power and glory, if this report from DebkaFile is true:
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry secretly agreed to elevate Iran to the status of seventh world power, as a strong inducement for signing the interim nuclear accord in Geneva Sunday, Nov. 24 …
While Iran has always demanded respect and equal standing as a regional power, never in their wildest dreams had the ayatollahs expected to be granted big power standing, with an authoritative role recognized by the six big powers for addressing issues in a broad region spanning the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and Western Asia, including Afghanistan. …
President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif presented this awesome achievement Monday to their hard-line critics at home, who accused them of giving away too much in terms of Iran’s nuclear program for the sake of a deal with the West.
We come home from Geneva with recognition as a world power, they replied.
The small print of Iran’s new rating is not yet in place, but Western sources familiar with the new US-Iranian understandings say they would not be surprised to find President Rouhani sitting in future summits on the same side of the table as the six powers who faced Iran in the Geneva negotiations. Zarif would also attend future foreign ministers’ meetings as an world-class equal.
Jerusalem and Riyadh are aghast at this development. Our Jerusalem sources report that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has kept it back from his cabinet colleagues, has been holding back-to-back confidential consultations with the heads of Israel’s security and intelligence services and the high IDF command to decide how to handle Obama’s sudden replacement of Israel with Iran as America’s No. 1 ally in the region.
Most immediately, a hostile Iran with a role in the ongoing US-sponsored negotiations with the Palestinians does not bear thinking of.
The Saudi royal house is deep in similarly anxious and angry discussions.
The report states that -
Israel and Saudi Arabia both find Iran’s promotion to world status more shocking and deleterious even than its pretensions to a nuclear weapon. Neither had imagined the Obama administration capable of an about face so extreme.
The about face is not conjecture – it has happened.
It has happened because it seems unthinkable to most people that Obama would destroy the West if he could. However naive, incompetent, ignorant, deceitful he is, the very fact that no one would believe that that is what he is hoping to do, has made it possible for him to take such steps as this giant one in Geneva. Iran is obviously more likely to advance Islamic world-power than Saudi Arabia or the Muslim Brotherhood. So with Iran he has negotiated the great betrayal.